‘Race’ & Ethnicity in Widening Participation policy and policy enactment in England
Dr Suki Ali (Department of Sociology)
Widening Participation policy and practice, ‘race’/ethnicity, intersectionality, language and categorisations of ‘race’/ethnicity, racialisation of space.
Higher education institutions in England are required by the Office for Students (OfS) to assess the rates in which different ethnic groups are entering undergraduate level study. From this assessment targets are set and strategy is devised to increase these access rates. While the field of work that looks into widening access in England notes that “BAME” students attend HE at a higher rate to their White counterparts it has consistently be found that there is still a barrier to access for some ethnic groups at particular types of institutions, namely those referred to as Russell Group universities. This policy context has resulted in a number of institutions with targets and strategies in place to increase access rates of some “BAME” students and “White working class” students. At most institutions the majority of this work sits within Widening Participation (WP) departments staffed mainly by White practitioners. My interest in this area derives from my own experience as a WP practitioner and a concern that, in a space where there is a passionate centring of educational inequalities, there remains a possibility for the reproduction of problematic notions around ‘race’ and ethnicity.
My research has two overarching aims:
To understand the discourses that inform ethnicity-based targeting in WP policy and practice.
To understand how WP departments in England carry out ethnicity-based targeting.
My methods include analysis of historical and current HE policy, analysis of Access and Participation plans and semi-structured interviews with WP practitioners.